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Tidying with kids can be a huge challenge, but for many parents, it feels like the kid stuff is the main source of clutter in the home. I could write books on how to handle clutter with kids, but for now, here is a little Tidying with Kids 101.
I learned my lesson the hard way when sorting kids’ papers. When my older son was about 6, he brought home countless papers each day from school. It would vary from complex art projects to basic worksheets to graded assignments. We always looked through them and made a fuss. I would keep the more special looking things and toss the others.
One day, he saw a worksheet in the trash can and got very upset with me. I showed him all of the wonderful things I had been keeping, but I felt terrible. I can still hear him saying, "I worked so hard on that!"
The first step in tidying with your kids is to have their trust. If you go into the process, and your child has defenses up, it's not going to be productive. They are going to want to keep everything because they think you are taking things from them.
As kids grow and change, the stuff keeps coming in and very little tends to go out. Because all kids are different, it can be challenging to figure out 1) how to reduce what you have now, and 2) how to slow the influx of more stuff.
Here are some tips on solving both of those problems.
Keep a school drawer
Ever since the trash incident above, we've kept a school drawer in the boys' bedrooms. We still sort through papers as they come in the door, but anything they keep goes in that drawer to be sorted when a little time has passed. Now that my older son is 10, he wants to keep less of his school work. My 4-year-old, on the other hand, thinks the simplest of scribbles are priceless, so we keep it all.
Create a special place in their room
Create a special place in their room for their favorite things. The space can be a shelf on the wall or a corner of the dresser. Make a fuss that it is for only their favorite things. Make it as visually appealing as you can with art and color, so they will be more likely to keep it tidy. Demonstrate to them how when it's cluttered with lots of things, then nothing feels special anymore, so keeping only a few things, highlights those things.
Take before and after photos!
My kids love to use a "real" camera (not just my phone camera)! Let your kids take before photos of their room or messiest drawers, and then see how tidy the room can be for the after photos.
Search kids' bedrooms on Pinterest. I hesitate sharing this one, because it can be a slippery slope, but it really works for us. When my son sees really cool bedrooms, he gets SO excited about his own. We talk about how the pictures don't have tons of "stuff", and we work on cool storage options.
Once your child is excited about their new space, have the discussion about how more stuff will make their space less special because it will be cluttered again. Consider a one-toy-in/one-toy-out policy to keep the clutter down. Have conscious decisions about purchases and gifts.
Remember, the best thing you can do to get your kids in the de-cluttering mood is to do it yourself. Be vocal on the changes you are making, why you are making them, and the effects they are having on your day-to-day life and vision. For the older kids, discuss your vision with them and encourage them to vocalize their own vision.
Tidying with kids can really be a bonding and trust building exercise.
Learn from my mistake; don’t throw away their stuff.